by Staff Writer - A. Heinzman | June 11, 2012

Chaptalization is a winemaking process where sugar is added to the grape juice just before fermentation. Adding sugar to this winemaking stage is used to boost the alcohol content of the finished wine. As fermentation converts sugar into alcohol, a higher concentration of sugar equates to a higher concentration of alcohol.

The process of Chaptalization has always been surrounded with controversy. Critics of the process point to shady winegrowers misusing the process by producing wines whose origins are of dubious quality. Chaptalization is a process closely monitored within wine producing countries. Some countries — namely Italy and Spain — do not allow wineries to practice the process of Chaptalization. Chaptalization or enrichment is utilized when sugar levels of the resulting grape harvest are too low to produce a quality wine. Low sugar levels in grapes can be caused by a poor growing season or by chronic poor climate conditions of a vineyard. Specific types of sugars are added to the grape juice just prior to fermentation. The vintner must carefully determine how much sugar to add so that the balance of the wine is not adversely affected. The end result of the process of Chaptalization is an increased amount of alcohol found in the wine. It is important to note that Chaptalization does not have any effect on the sweetness of the final wine.

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